In May 2017, a group of Hobart and William Smith students will make a journey that until recently was impossible. They will be the first participants in the Center for Global Education’s (CGE) new, short-term abroad program, in Havana, Cuba. Directed by Associate Professor of Spanish and Hispanic Studies Juan Liébana, “Inside the New Cuba” will immerse students in Cuban life, literature and history, offering a rare view into a once-inaccessible culture during a moment of extraordinary transition.
Prior to 20th-century stints under American then Soviet influence, Cuba’s time under Spanish colonial rule stretches back to the arrival of Christopher Columbus in 1492. Now, Cuba is deciding its future without foreign control, Liébana says. “For the first time in Cuban history, they are confronted with the possibility of creating a new identity without the supervision of a colonial power,” he says.
Through coursework and travel, students will explore the nature of this new identity, how Cuba is creating it, and the historical and cultural forces at play. Through historical documents, literature, print media, films and music, the course will chart Cuban society’s evolution from the 1959 Revolution, through the Soviet dissolution, to the present day, and examine the impact of the Revolution on Cuban society, Latin America and the United States.
In addition to visiting historical sites and museums throughout Cuba, including the Museum of the Revolution, the Museum of Fine Arts and the Missile Crisis tunnels underneath the Hotel Nacional, students will travel to the Bay of Pigs, small communities within the biosphere reserve of the Sierra del Rosario Mountains, Santa Clara, the agricultural area of Viñales, and the picturesque colonial town of Trinidad, a UNESCO world heritage site. The result is a broad exposure to a complicated and changing culture, an educational experience so multifaceted that 11 HWS departments and programs have cross-listed the abroad trip’s associated course.
Liébana, a scholar of Cuban literature, previously directed abroad programs in Spain. His leadership is one of the Havana program’s distinguishing characteristics, says CGE Associate Program Manager Anthony Mandela. “Professor Liébana has extensive experience as a director, and his expertise will provide students with a unique perspective of current and historical Cuban-American relations along with an in-depth understanding of the culture, politics and modern-day realities inside the new Cuba.”
The program is possible through collaboration with Arcadia University, an American institution that began an academic partnership with the University of Havana in 2012. HWS students will stay at Arcadia’s student residences in the Vedado section of Havana, and its staff will support Liébana for the duration of the course.
“Inside the New Cuba” adds yet another exciting destination to the CGE’s extensive catalog of study-abroad options and reaffirms the Colleges’ institutional commitment to global education. Sixty percent of HWS students study abroad in nearly 50 locations around the world.
Up to 20 students will be selected for the program. The application process begins in the fall.